Most meat in 2040 ‘will not be from an­i­mals’

The Guardian - - Front page - Damian Car­ring­ton En­vi­ron­ment edi­tor

Most of the meat peo­ple eat in 2040 will not come from slaugh­tered an­i­mals, ac­cord­ing to a re­port that pre­dicts 60% will be either grown in vats or re­placed by plant-based prod­ucts that look and taste like meat.

The re­port by the global con­sul­tancy AT Kear­ney, based on ex­pert in­ter­views, high­lights the heavy en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of con­ven­tional meat pro­duc­tion and the con­cerns peo­ple have about the wel­fare of an­i­mals un­der in­dus­trial farm­ing.

“The large-scale live­stock in­dus­try is viewed by many as an un­nec­es­sary evil,” the re­port says. “With the ad­van­tages of novel ve­gan meat re­place­ments and cul­tured meat over con­ven­tion­ally pro­duced meat, it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore they cap­ture a sub­stan­tial mar­ket share.”

The con­ven­tional meat in­dus­try raises bil­lions of an­i­mals and turns over $1tn (£785bn) a year. How­ever, the huge en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts have been made plain in re­cent sci­en­tific stud­ies, from the emis­sions driv­ing the cli­mate cri­sis to wild habi­tats de­stroyed for farm­land and the pol­lu­tion of rivers.

Com­pa­nies that use plant ingredient­s to cre­ate re­place­ment burg­ers, scram­bled eggs and other prod­ucts are grow­ing rapidly.

AT Kear­ney es­ti­mates $1bn has been in­vested in such ve­gan prod­ucts, in­clud­ing by the com­pa­nies that dom­i­nate the con­ven­tional meat mar­ket. Be­yond Meat raised $240m when the com­pany went pub­lic in May, and its shares have more than dou­bled since.

Other com­pa­nies are work­ing on grow­ing meat cells in cul­ture, to pro­duce real meat with­out need­ing to raise and kill an­i­mals. No such prod­ucts have yet reached con­sumers, but AT Kear­ney pre­dicts cul­tured meat will dom­i­nate in the long term be­cause it re­pro­duces the taste and feel of con­ven­tional meat more closely than plant-based al­ter­na­tives.

“The shift to­wards flex­i­tar­ian, veg­e­tar­ian and ve­gan life­styles is un­de­ni­able, with many con­sumers cut­ting down on their meat con­sump­tion as a re­sult of be­com­ing more con­scious to­wards the en­vi­ron­ment and an­i­mal wel­fare,” said Carsten Ger­hardt, a part­ner at AT Kear­ney. “For pas­sion­ate meat eaters, the pre­dicted rise of cul­tured meat prod­ucts means that they still get to en­joy the same diet they al­ways have, but with­out the same en­vi­ron­men­tal and an­i­mal cost at­tached.”

The re­port es­ti­mates 35% of all meat will be cul­tured in 2040 and 25% will be ve­gan re­place­ments. It high­lights the greater ef­fi­ciency of the al­ter­na­tives to con­ven­tional meat.

Al­most half the world’s crops are fed to live­stock, but only 15% of the plant calo­ries end up be­ing eaten by hu­mans as meat. In con­trast, the re­port says, cul­tured meat and ve­gan meat re­place­ments re­tain about three-quar­ters of their in­put calo­ries.

Po­ten­tial cus­tomer un­easi­ness about cul­tured meat will not be a bar­rier, the re­port says, cit­ing sur­veys in the US, China and In­dia: “Cul­tured meat will win in the long run. How­ever,

novel ve­gan meat re­place­ments will be es­sen­tial in the tran­si­tion phase.”

“From steaks to seafood, a full spec­trum of op­tions is emerg­ing to re­place tra­di­tional an­i­mal pro­tein prod­ucts with plant-based and cell-based meat tech­nolo­gies,” said Rosie Wardle, at the Jeremy Coller Foun­da­tion, a phil­an­thropic or­gan­i­sa­tion fo­cused on sus­tain­able food sys­tems.

“The shift to more sus­tain­able pat­terns of pro­tein con­sump­tion is un­der­way, driven by con­sumers, in­vestors and en­trepreneur­s, and even pulling in the world’s big­gest meat com­pa­nies. If any­thing, pre­dic­tions that 60% of the world’s meat will not come from slaugh­tered an­i­mals in 20 years’ time may be an un­der­es­ti­ma­tion.”

A Na­tional Farm­ers’ Union spokesman said: “In­no­va­tion and new tech­nol­ogy have been cen­tral to the progress of Bri­tish live­stock farm­ing. Al­though the sci­ence of lab-grown meat is in­ter­est­ing, the NFU be­lieves there is great po­ten­tial for live­stock farm­ing to con­tinue its jour­ney of pro­duc­ing safe, trace­able and af­ford­able food for the na­tion.”

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